In the framework of the European Commission-supported LIFE+ project,European Capitals of Biodiversity, four cities have been crowned as national champions. From the smallest village of
Carrícola with its 88 inhabitants, to European metropolises like Barcelona or Paris, over 200 municipalities presented their strategies and actions to preserve local biodiversity. The winning ‘Capitals of Biodiversity’ are Grande Synthe in France, Tata in Hungary, El Real Sitio de San Ildefonso in Spain, and Želiezovce in Slovakia.
The four Capitals of Biodiversity showcased their achievements and were officially honoured at the “City Biodiversity Summit”, a side-event at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP10), currently underway in Nagoya, Japan. This year’s winners have demonstrated outstanding commitment and “show a very high standard of biodiversity protection” says Oliver Hillel, Programme Officer in the CBD Secretariat and member of the project’s International Advisory Board. “If many municipalities around the globe take their lead and show a similar dedication, we can finally achieve some significant progress in fighting the loss of biodiversity.”
The Spanish winner, El Real Sitio de San Ildefons, with only 6,000 inhabitants, was chosen for its successful integration of cultural resources with the protection of biodiversity, and for taking bold measures to restore wild species including the European otter and Pyrenean desman. The Slovak capital of biodiversity, Želiezovce (7,500 inhabitants), won due to its very proactive approach to biodiversity protection, entailng the restoration of a wetland, the management of ancient trees, and numerous awareness-raising events. The Hungarian winner, Tata (24,000 inhabitants), stood out for its efforts to restore and protect precious habitats, including the Ramsar site, “Old Lake”, which is one of Europe’s most important migratory stopovers for wild birds. Tata has also planted over 12000 trees in the last four years. Grande Synthe (21,000 inhabitants) has been chosen as the French capital of biodiversity owing to its ambitious policies that, in spite of heavy industrial pressures, aim to promote urban biodiversity through ecological green space management and restoration.
The national competitions were accompanied by a series of workshops in each country, designed to diffuse biodiversity-related knowledge to decision-makers and planning technicians. IUCN supported these workshops by identifying suitable speakers and case studies, by leading specialist training sessions and - in partnership with ICLEI - by developing the workshop training materials. IUCN also coordinated the implementation of the Singapore Cities’ Biodiversity Index by the participating municipalities. This Index comprises an easy-to-apply set of biodiversity indicators, which empower municipalities to self-assess their biodiversity and gauge the efficacy of the conservation tools they employ.
The European Capitals of Biodiversity is led by Deutsche Umwelthilfe (Germany) and the national partners are NatureParif (France),Lake Balaton Development Coordination Agency (Hungary), Fundación Biodiversidad (Spain) and the Regional Environmental Center (Slovakia). IUCN and ICLEI are international partners of the project. The “German Capital of Biodiversity” will be announced in spring 2011 and a next round of the competitions will be carried out in 2011. More organisations from other European countries are invited to join and establish competitions in their own countries (contact person: Mr Robert Spreter, firstname.lastname@example.org).
The project is supported through LIFE+, a programme of the EU. Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed some 2.750 projects, contributing approximately 1.35 billion to the protection of the environment.